On May 2, 1519, a great mind was extinguished. Leonardo da Vinci, polymath and true genius of the Renaissance left this world. Recognized as unique and special in his own time as well as our own, Leonardo’s paintings were highly sought after and his skills in engineering and hydrodynamics placed him in a category apart from his fellow artists. His private notebooks on scientific, anatomical, and engineering studies reveal a gifted endlessly enquiring mind that has caught the imagination of today’s scholars in many disciplines.

“Leonardo da Vinci, Inventing the Future” takes place on October 18-19, 2019, at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute.

Organized by

  • Francis Wells (Cardiac Surgeon, Royal Papworth Hospital and Cambridge University, UK)
  • Massimo Ciavolella (Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature, UCLA)
  • Noel G. Boyle (Professor of Medicine/Cardiology, UCLA)
  • Morteza Gharib (Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering, Caltech)
  • Victoria Vesna (Professor of Design and Media Arts; Director, Art|Sci Center, UCLA)

Jointly presented by the UCLA Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies,  UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia Center – David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, UCLA  Art I Science Center, and Caltech. This conference was proposed and brought to fruition primarily through the inspiration and efforts of Francis Wells.

Rather than simply celebrating Leonardo’s life, works, and scholarship, this conference approaches Leonardo’s influence in a novel way, musing on how Leonardo himself might have reflected on this auspicious anniversary. His desire for new knowledge and understanding would have driven him to look forwards rather than back.

To that end, this conference takes as its starting point four foci of Leonardo’s work—Flight, the Heart, Robotics & Artificial Intelligence, and the Environment—and looks into the future and what may be waiting for mankind as our knowledge and impulse to explore the unknown unfolds over time.

The conference will be accompanied by an exhibition of relevant facsimiles of Leonardo’s drawings matched with photographs of contemporary dissections and modern artistic works from the Department of Artistic Anatomy of the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. Items from the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana in the UCLA Library Special Collections will also be on display. Additionally, a film on the life of Leonardo will be shown courtesy of the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles.

Our hope is that through this innovative program we will use the inspiration and example of Leonardo to re-ignite the enthusiasm for research and challenge in this generation and the next, and to develop the most distinguishing of human features, the enquiring and challenging mind.


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